Viacom18, under the control of Reliance Industries Ltd, has acquired exclusive media rights for televising and live-streaming Indian Super League (ISL) football matches for the upcoming two seasons.
The 10th season of ISL is scheduled to kick off on September 21, featuring a match between Kerala Blasters FC and Bengaluru FC in Kochi.
This marks the first time that India’s premier football league will be aired by Viacom18, taking over from Disney Star, the official broadcaster for the past nine seasons.
Disney Star’s decision not to renew the league’s rights beyond the 2022-23 season was driven by persistent losses and declining viewership. Football Sports Development Ltd (FSDL), the organizer of ISL, reported losses of ₹46 crore in 2021-22, ₹13 crore in 2020-21, and ₹27 crore a year before. With Disney Star’s 10-year agreement with FSDL concluding this year, the auctioning of ISL’s media rights became inevitable.
Reliance’s substantial stake in the league made it evident that rival broadcasters Sony Pictures Networks India or Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd would not be contenders for the media rights. Sources indicated that Viacom18 would secure the media rights from this season.
Reliance owns 65% of FSDL, with Disney Star holding the remaining 35%.
FSDL engaged sports agency Octagon to oversee the auction process, setting ₹275 crore as the base price for each season (₹550 crore for the two-year rights). The agreement allows for a potential extension of up to three more years.
The media rights were awarded at the base price after FSDL received only two bids, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The size of the deal has not been disclosed by either FSDL or Viacom18.
In a statement, Viacom18 emphasized ISL’s role in the development of football in India over the past decade, both on and off the field. Viacom18’s digital streaming platform JioCinema will offer free streaming of ISL matches. The platform had previously streamed the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the 2023 Indian Premier League.
An FSDL spokesperson expressed pleasure in partnering with Viacom18 as the media rights partner for ISL. The spokesperson highlighted the shared vision of growing football consumption in India and the potential for Viacom18 to introduce ISL to a broader audience, thanks to its strong digital capabilities and connection with modern sports enthusiasts.
A Viacom18 Media spokesperson underscored the significance of securing streaming and broadcast rights for ISL and its commitment to contributing to the sport’s development in India. They believe that this partnership during an exciting period in Indian football will rekindle the passion of every Indian football lover.